John Courtney

Rookie - 0 Points (05-22-1982 / Philadelphia)

Bonfire Dream Poem by John Courtney


One last cool night, under a boardwalk,
I hear you as traffic slowed overhead, I
hear you as the rubber soles of fishermen
unload boats. My heart is a fancy watch
given to me at birth, it sleeps in my
bed tonight. She walks into the room
to stop it, her color pulls into focus.

I take her hand from under a kitchen table,
the mystic build-up of moving time, the white
dark search she comes from. If a clock has
snakes dismantling my teeth I must insist on
commerce with the Angels, her lips rely
on blackbirds to surrender their appetite.

We stretch madly behind us, in front of the
bonfire, mailmen go busily on horseback through
the cemetary, the century, the Ages. I worry
about my heart, she slips a warm breeze down
my throat, tells me to swallow the tide.

This is how it happens every time, her face
becomes a name I've known all my life but
never remember. I try swallowing the tide
again but the moonwater has had enough,
pushing her raft fast past the whales of starlight.

I wake in the middle of the night half-
drunk with a dry mouth, search frantically
for my watch, find it in my breast pocket,
the mystic tear-down of still time, her
color pulls out of focus, and I love
her before any fish have been gutted.

How easily we gather around a flame for
morning, only to exist in the strange
suddenness of death: the common thief,
bad writing on the back of an old picture,
someone's name and the year it was.

Submitted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Edited: Wednesday, May 8, 2013
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